It’s important to have boundaries in your relationships and in your overall life.
Boundaries are so important for your overall health. Lines showing where I start and where you end are important in ALL kinds of relationships. Relationship with your spouse, relationship with your family, parent/child relationship, friendships, work relationships, etc. Even God gives us boundaries. He doesn’t do it to punish us, He does it to create safety and ultimately freedom. It’s funny because as I grow in my relationship with God, he continually shows me how to deepen my relationships with others by setting up boundaries.
If you had asked me 6 years ago, I would have told you that I had boundary issues, issues because I had NO boundaries. I was your typical people-pleasing perfectionist who literarily always gave too much without regard for herself. I have stories for DAYS about how people took advantage of my lack of boundaries, my naive empathy, and overall generosity. I was also in a profession where a lack of boundaries was downright detrimental to my mental well-being. There was a season where I prayed to God to take my “sensitive nature” away because I would consistently get into relationships that were “all take” and not enough give. I understand now that God made me this way for a reason. He created me to be a kind place for people to land. Along the way, I had to learn a lot of hard lessons that inevitably led me to learn about boundaries. I don’t always get it right and sometimes I'm misunderstood but no one can say that I’m not trying.
Some of the lessons I had to learn were in my career, my romantic relationships, my friendships, and my family.
Learning boundaries in my career came first - As a coach in the career fulfillment space, you are dealing with people in pain. They typically come to get a “resume fixed” but within 2 minutes of the conversation, we are unpacking imposter syndrome, family expectations, societal & financial pressure, mental health, and self-worth issues. It is an extremely emotionally draining job. When you add that to the context I was in which was supporting university students in one of the most diverse business schools in Canada, it was even more complicated. I would often take my work home with me. I would spend my days and nights worrying about my students to the point where I valued their career progression, their mental health, and family drama, more than they even valued themselves. I remember once I had a student literary steal from me. They were going through a mental health crisis and broke into my office and stole from me. What’s funny is that my first thought was to go directly to the dean to “advocate” for this student because they didn’t “mean to”. I knew the university had a zero-tolerance policy and this student might get into trouble or get expelled and I didn’t want a mistake like this to reflect negatively on them. I even offered to get the student back on track with regular check-ins. This was just 1 of MANNNNY stories of boundary violations I experienced in my career. I never even once processed the violation of my privacy and property until years later. I remember telling that story to my therapist and she was like UMMMMM that’s not ok. I had to learn the hard way after burnout #3 that even though you care about your students/clients, you cannot sacrifice your well-being for them. Now as a full-time entrepreneur, I always catch myself before it gets to a place where I betray myself.
Learning boundaries in romantic relationships - This one is still a work in progress but we are coming along pretty well. My lack of boundaries in this space stemmed from my wanting to be accepted, seen, and heard by men. I wanted so deeply to be accepted for who I am including my body, my mind, sensitive nature, mental health, my quirks, and all. Quick side note - I have always considered myself to be a “late bloomer” maybe that’s why I’ve been obsessed with “growing up” and being an adult (cue blog name - all grown up). I think my wanting to be accepted came from my experiences growing up. I was never the girl that was “chosen” by guys. I was always the friend. It wasn’t until university that I started getting any type of attention from guys and even then it was all the wrong guys (for context, I lost 40lbs in my first year of uni because I was depressed). So when I eventually started getting attention I constantly allowed men to cross my physical and emotional boundaries…… WELL I didn’t have any boundaries sooooo I got hurt a lot. I just expected people to know that I was a delicate flower that needed to be handled with care but I didn’t know that I had to set the standard. It wasn’t until when I was 28 in 2020 that I even started working through it for the first time. It still took 3 years for me to properly define those boundaries and then communicate them effectively and then enforce them. Ladies, there are so many steps to this thing and honestly, it’s not easy. Anyone setting boundaries for the first time will tell you that there is always a period of “over-correction” where your boundaries almost feel like walls. In this season you almost NEED the holy spirit’s leading to set appropriate boundaries. Reading books also helps! Books like Boundaries in Dating, Sis Don’t Settle, and Attached were all great in the process of building boundaries in romantic relationships.
Learning boundaries in friendships What I have learned in my friendships is that the holy spirit is an amazing helper when it comes to discernment, communication, and breaking down the walls of misinterpretation. I can’t lie, I struggle with this one. One of my biggest fears in life is being misunderstood especially when I cross a friend’s boundaries and vice versa. My closest friends will tell you that I struggle with it because when I am misunderstood it typically leads to me internalizing this miscommunication. I feel like it’s always my fault and that there is something fundamentally wrong with me (dramatic I know, I’m working on it). What I have learned and continue to learn is that the enemy loves offense and the boundary I have set is that I REFUSE to let my heart get sick with unforgiveness. So how does this work out practically? I always assume positive intent, apologize for my part in the miscommunication, and then leave the rest to God. I remember reading in the Boundaries book, how there is a thin line between being “responsible for” and being “responsible to”. I am responsible to my relationships and that looks like accountability for my actions, if and when I cross a friend's boundaries. However, I am not responsible for how a friend reacts to a boundary violation, I can only apologize and aim to do better next time. Not understanding this distinction can lead to ALOT of guilt. For instance, if I say something to a friend that rubs them the wrong way and they become angry, I can apologize for what I said and if the relationship is safe enough, they can forgive. This is NEW for me in the last 2-3 years. Beforehand, I would beat myself up for hurting my friend’s feelings even though I never intended to, I would call myself all sorts of false names (selfish, insensitive, inconsiderate) and apologize PROFUSELY and ultimately live in fear of crossing any boundaries in future. It was exhausting but we thank God for safer friendships and better boundaries….. can I get an amen? AMEN.
Learning boundaries in your family - NOW this is the hardest lol. It’s hard because I was raised in 2 different contexts. My childhood was in Nigeria but my adulthood so far has been in Canada. Every immigrant, child of the diaspora, 1st gen, etc will tell you that the conflict and cognitive dissonance that comes from being part of 2 different cultures is tough. The values, lessons, experiences, etc that I was raised in “both helpful and harmful” inform how I approach the world…..but guess what I also grew up in Canada. The values, lessons, and experiences I gained from living there for the last 15 years also inform my experience of the world. Neither is better or worse it's just different and in some cases I’m going to lean more Nigerian and in other cases I will lean more Canadian. I had to accept this for myself. For years, I was told I was being too “oyibo” or “white-washed” and I used to get so upset because I thought that was erasing my Nigerian identity. On the flip side, the Canadians didn’t understand my “gra gra” or my straightforwardness as a Nigerian so I could never win in either context. Why am I telling you this somewhat long-winded intro to talking about setting boundaries with my African parents?? Well because I live at home now in Nigeria LOL…. and what I’m learning is that It’s so much easier to set boundaries when you are 8000km away instead of a few steps from their bedroom. Basically, it’s still a work in progress. My advice, pray about it and then talk to the more “chill” parent and just hope for the best. It’s not going to be perfect, but setting boundaries is NEVER fun or easy. Even saying the word boundaries in a Nigerian home can be considered “disrespectful” 😅😅. I truly believe that half the time people are projecting their issues/lack of boundaries in an area onto you (it’s not always about you). In general, people don’t like boundaries (African or otherwise) but believe it or not that’s how relationships grow and become safer. It’s like getting a root canal; the procedure is sucky BUT in the long run, you will avoid more dire pain to your teeth.
So now that I have sufficiently compared setting boundaries to getting a root canal🤣 I just want to reiterate that building healthy relationships requires WORK but its so worth it. Just a quick aside…..setting boundaries doesn’t mean closing yourself off to good relationships because you are in hyper-self-preservation mode. That’s a trauma response. It’s not every day “ I don’t have the capacity”, “I need 100 hours to myself daily” and “everyone will hurt me, if I open up slightly, so my boundaries have to be IRONCLAD”. It is about creating doors instead of walls. Doors allow the good to come in and the bad to go out. ALSO, it’s not enough to just set boundaries, you have to actually COMMUNICATE them to the people you are in a relationship with. It is the deepest form of grace to tell a friend, a family member, a boyfriend “Hey, I know you didn’t mean to (assume positive) but that thing you did/said hurt me, would you mind trying your best not to do that again? I promise you if that friend, family member, or boyfriend actually likes you they will try their best and all you can do is extend grace (unless it’s toxic, in that case, act like Daniel Kaluuya and Get OUT 🏃🏾♀️. I have stumbled through these conversations many times because I am a human who gets triggered but I am trying my best. Ultimately I value progression over perfection.
Ok now i’m done :)
Till next time;
Your ever-growing, boundary-learning, and practicing friend